Gifts 4 architects x architects!

It’s that time of year again, when people are fretting over what gift to give an architect. I personally have been thinking about this year’s list of suggestions, and came up with a very modest list of gifts for architects by architects.

I admire architects who pursue creative endeavors and expression outside of their profession. I suppose one of the first people who I met who did this was the late Jon-Marc Creaney. His photographs are/were inspiring. If you are not familiar with his photography, I encourage you to check it out.

I have met a couple of more architects since Jon whose creative products I have come to admire, and I think will make excellent gifts or stocking stuffers for the architect.

If you follow me on Twitter, you will know that I like to RT @Archimatects. I am a fan of the comics. In fact, I was asked by the creator to write a foreword for Volume 3, which is the latest volume of the Archimatects series. It’s about the profession of architecture – efficiently illustrated with clip art and witty dialogue. The books are available for purchase here and are currently marked down 20%! That’s a great deal! Any one, or all three of these books would make a great addition to any architect’s library.

Another architect’s work who I learned about recently is from Glasgow, Scotland. Allistar Burt is one half of Hole in My Pocket. The work that interests me are the whimsical illustrations and sense of graphic designs, which are produced as cards, posters, books, clothing, and other objects as well. Some of my favorites are the Scottish sayings featured against tartan like the one below:

And by chance, I had encountered a chocolate shop while on a holiday getaway in Portland, Maine. The chocolatier is an architect. In fact, his office is above the chocolate shop. If you have the September 2011 Architect magazine, you’ll find an article about Dean Bingham, Career Sampler. I enjoy chocolate but have only appreciated fine chocolates because of him! His truffles and flavor combinations are amazing. It’s more than just chocolate; it’s pure decadence in your mouth! Some of favorite flavors include cayenne, chocolate stout, and scotch.  I don’t think any architect who receives a box of Dean’s Sweets would complain. If anything, they will moan with delight!

And if you would like more ideas, you can also check out the suggestions from 2010 and 2009.


Freelance architect

Based on what I have observed in the job listings for architects, it seems that the economy is starting to pick up. That’s great news! However, I noticed that many of these positions are seeking freelance architects. Despite the economy beginning to bounce back from the brink of collapse, many architecture practices do not seem confident in the economy. I don’t blame them for being cautious.

And it seems there are many freelance architects who are filling the need for temporary help while we recover from the economic and financial havoc that we have experienced for the last couple of years. The idea of being a freelance architect does not excite me however, if this is going to be the employment trend, I can not be inflexible about these employment opportunities. Understanding that this may be my future, I inquired with a few architects via Twitter about their experiences and advice. Below were some concerns and questions I had about being a freelance architect followed with responses from those who are freelance architects and self-employed architects. These architects who were kind enough to share their experiences are from the US, UK, and Canada.

One of my concerns was the type of work freelance architects would be offered. I suspect that if you are not part of the office (a full-time employee), then you would be given the less desirable parts of a project but that’s not necessarily true.

@architectmark: @lafemmearchitct #Askarch i tend not to work freelance 4 other architects (i’d b quite happy 2);I think sometimes Arch R possessive over proj

@Ask_Architect: @lafemmearchitct#freelance for other #architects sometimes – work can be anything from small parts to assistant/project arch#askarch

I was curious about why some architects became freelancers and I was surprised that many want to as opposed to a result of current economic circumstances.

@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct But because I want to ! I am my own boss, I have a few good, returning clients.
@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct Freelance fits best what I want now. I had a full-time position before. I quitted.

@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct both – Layoff last June, offered contract work w/the pools, supplement w/additional freelance for consistency.

In inquiring about being a freelance architect, a couple of the architects explained that the freelance opportunities were offered through previous employers and/or friends (who are also architects), and seems to work out for these architects.
@Ask_Architect: @lafemmearchitct so far just freelancing 4 past employers & best friend so all very open & collaborative #AskArch@architectmark
@jdg_architect@lafemmearchitct I also have a good friend which manage his own architecture practice (with employees) that happen to have work overflow from time to time.

The most important concern I had about being a freelance architect is the duration of work, rate, and payments. And this is where architects offered great advice.

@ShropsArchitect: @lafemmearchitct most of my freelance work is hourly. One may go to fixed fee as its a large role 4 big project #AskArch
@ShropsArchitect: @lafemmearchitct treat #freelance#architect work much as u might working 4 a client. brief appointment contract etc#AskArch

@ronestudioarch: @lafemmearchitct #freelance – be sure your contract outlines ONLY those services you will provide – no wiggle room – always get retainer

@architectmark: @lafemmearchitct make sure your agreement/contract for the services you’re providing is clear,especially payment!#AskArch

@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct that works – just agree on a payment timeline (1x/week, etc) & deliverables. Get a contract signed @ronestudioarch
@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct @ronestudioarch One way: estimate your time, charge a % of the total price; collect the (adjusted) balance upon completion

@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct I do set my hours, work from my office but meet at theirs and respect their schedule.
@jdg_architect: @lafemmearchitct keep in mind that it’s more expensive for architects to hire freelancers over full time employes.

Of the advice that were being offered, requesting a retainer from your architect client was something I did not consider and I think it should be. And why not? It is standard practice for an architect to request a retainer from their client. It doesn’t hurt to ask, right?

@architectmark: @lafemmearchitct i normally work on a retainer basis as so many things can change (site purchase falling thru,divorce/split,floods #AskArch

@architectderek: YES RT @lafemmearchitct: Is it standard practice for #architects to ask/get a retainer from a client on a project?#AskArch
@architectderek: @lafemmearchitct A retainer is still a good idea if it’s the 1st time you’ve worked with someone.

@simplybrinn: @lafemmearchitct @ronestudioarchretainers minimize your risk (and headache) should you get a flaky client; doesn’t have to be huge

I want to thank all the architects for their time and advice on the subject of being a freelance architect. They have opened up my eyes to the benefits and possibilities of being a freelance architect. I like the idea of setting my work hours, perhaps getting paid more than what I would have normally gotten paid, be able to dedicated some time on personal projects, and eventually become an entrepreneur. Yes, I still have concerns about being a freelance architect but I think if I put myself in a position where I have some control over my time, pay, and work with architects who I am comfortable with, I can make it a positive and amicable experience.

I also want to give a big thanks to @AskArch, a wonderful resource for both architects and non-architects should you have questions about architecture, architects, and profession. Follow them on Twitter; or tune in every Friday 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm Western European time zone.

Are you a freelance architect? Or considering freelance work as an architect? Please leave any advice you would like to share or questions you may have. Thank you.

Pro Bono – part 1

That was this month’s topic for discussion via #aiachat on Twitter. I found it apropos because I had read an article about architectural practice and pro bono work in Metropolis Magazine, which was written in response to a recently published book about the above subject, The Power of Pro Bono. Plus, I had submitted an application to DesigNYC, a non-profit organization whose aim is “improving the lives of New Yorkers through the power of good design”.

The #aiachat on Twitter was moderated by @AIANational, who submits “official” questions for participants to respond or start a dialogue. Anybody with a Twitter account is welcome to participate. For more information about participating in the next #aiachat, click here.

Apparently many who participated in the #aiachat admitted to being approached for pro bono work. I’ve included several interesting responses from participants below:

@liraluis: Q1 Yes, by both NPOs (non-profit org) and, yes, for-profit organizations
@AishaDBdesigner: Q1 response: Always get approached + see opportunities by non profits. My question is how much time can one really dedicate?
@tdatx: Yes, mostly through a formal professional services organization called The Real Estate Council in Dallas
@AllisonBroSco: we are approached mainly from our local community organizations, and we participate when and how we can
@DreamwallsGlass: Q1: I get a lot of questions for pro-bono work from non-profits on which I either serve on a board or volunteer with.

I thought it was interesting that the question and responses were posed where the client approached the architect/designer for pro bono work vs. the other way around. I think one of the interesting things about organizations like DesigNYC is they are set up to help facilitate architects and designers with non-profit organizations who could use our services to benefit our local communities. I don’t see why architects and designers shouldn’t be a little more pro-active with getting involved with local NPO’s while promoting good design.

Other questions were raised shortly after the discussion was initiated with the first question:

@AIANational: How about individual clients inquiring about pro bono work in addition to organizations?
@HawkinsArch: @AIANational . Sure I have individual clients asking for free work all the time! 🙂 But not sure that is really Pro Bono…

I was curious about the difference between doing work for free vs. pro bono; and I do not include speculative work, which in my opinion is something else entirely. Below are some interesting responses.

@AIANational: @lafemmearchitct and @HawkinsArchGreat point; is there a difference in free v. pro bono work?
@DreamwallsGlass: Response to @lafemmearchitct A GOOD pro bono piece of work should be something more pr-worthy. A lot of people ask for “free” 🙂
@DESIGNSTUDIO26: goodness yes. free is mostly not good for the practice, or profession.
@liraluis:@aianational Free benefits singularity. Probono benefits society. @lafemmearchitct @HawkinsArch
@LowenCorp: Pro Bono means the business is involved somehow- Free is just ‘giving’ things away.
@bslarch: pro bono by definition means work done for the public good. this differentiates it from freebies!

I agree with @DESIGNSTUDIO26 that doing something for free is not good for the practice, or the profession as I believe it devalues our efforts.  Also doing something for free implies no or little value, which is contrary to the time and effort we put into each problem we solve. There are many architects and designers who struggle to make their clients understand the value of the services they provide. Throwing “free” into the conversation only makes our argument less effective, and what we do less appreciated.

@liraluis put it best and simply regarding the difference between free and pro bono. I’d also like to add that the difference between doing something for free vs. pro bono is how one feels when services are rendered. I suspect that professionals who provide “pro bono” services to NPOs, would be more rewarding as their efforts, however great or small, will have a positive impact on the community.

I thought this was an interesting questions as architects do not normally advertise their practices or services like a lawyer or cosmetics doctor with print ads or billboards. Instead, architecture practices get their exposure through publications in magazines, books, and online resources.

@liraluis: Q2. No, but my firm registered where we commit to donate 1% of our services to cause-worthy projects
@HawkinsArch: Q2: Do not advertise. Do use word of mouth within NOP orgs and networks. But no real marketing for it.
@AllisonBroSco: Q2 we advertise that we engage closely with our community, and we talk a lot about those orgs we are involved in.

@liraluis: It’s abt managing expectations of clients–probono or freebie. NPOs can get carried away on wanting things free bec of 501c3 status
@HawkinsArch: Q3 The biggest issue with Pro Bono. Try to manage expectations and provide feedback like all projects. Scope creep is always there

I couldn’t agree more with @liraluis and @HawkinsArch. Part of managing the expectations of any client is to have a signed contract or a document that indicates project description and which services will be provided.

@liraluis: Q4. At the end of the day, some of our probono projects have generated more publicity for us than any paid marketing campaign.
@NextMoon: @DreamwallsGlass Pro bono services benefit firm in bldg expertise & content for outreach, but also relationships in community.
@HMCArchitects: Q4 Benefits: Rewarding experiences to engage communities, collaborating w/ organizations that believe design can make a difference

In addition to the Q&A, there were some interesting and valid points made during the #aiachat, and definitely something architects and designers must not forget and take into consideration. I’ve highlighted some of these tweets below.

@threefourteen: problem with pro-bono. Even though its free it doesnt mean they cant sue you. Still liability involved for#architects
@stevemouzon: pro bono work should be for a cause you’re passionate about, not just to meet a quota, IMO
@liraluis: Q3. Tip on managing expectations: We issue invoices to client indicating $value of services performed probono but with zero balance

@tdatx: Did we ever figure out if our pro bono work is tax deductible?
@liraluis: @tdatx If the organization has a 501c3 status, yes. For anything else, your tax advisor will be the best bet.

@dMASS_net: Is doing extra free work to make a paying clients’ project in order to make it greener also pro-bono (i.e public good)?

If you are an architect or designer and are interested in pro bono work you may be interested in looking into these organization to help facilitate your services with a non-profit organization who can benefit from your efforts and make a better community.

And, if anybody is still unclear what it means to provide pro bono services or what is considered pro bono work, you can always check wikipedia;

@mike_kohn: In case anyone’s interested, here’s the @Wikipedia definition of pro bono:

I also want to thank @KDiop for informing me of this #aiachat – merci beacoup!

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Gifts for the Architect 2010

Well, it’s that time of year again as we approach closer to the holidays, and people are wondering what to give as gifts. I can’t speak for everyone but I can at least help those who need gift ideas to give an architect. I compiled a list of gift ideas last year, Gifts for the Architect, which you are more than welcome to check out. The ideas I listed last year are timeless and you can’t go wrong with.

For 2010, I have compiled a list of *new* and exciting gift ideas that I believe will please almost any architect. It wasn’t an easy task but someone had to do it. I scoured the internet visiting various sites and trolled the streets of NYC looking for great gifts to give that architect friend, spouse, or child. I believe what I have selected will no doubt meet an architect’s professional needs, their desire for knowledge and inspiration, and complement their creative sensibilities. You can’t go wrong with these gifts. As one of the gifts says (and you’ll see this soon enough), “Trust me, I’m an architect.”

The architect’s travel companion

I don’t know any architect who isn’t always carrying something to the job site or a project meeting so why not give them a bag that can take the abuse of daily travels and still look professional?

Victorinox Swiss Army has a collection of travel gear called Architecture 2.0 with over 20 bags to choose from. Of the collection, Louvre 17 would be a thoughtful gift. The specs say it fits a 17″ laptop which is great because it means an architect can also stick a reduced size (11″x17″) set of documents without having to fold a larger set. There are also pockets to fit pens, PDA’s, tape measure, a scale, and other tools.

I admit the black bag (above) is a bit conservative looking; and for many architects this is what they will want to use in a suited work environment. But not all architects are restricted to working in a suit. There are many architects who are professional and dress comfortably. For these architects, I recommend products from White Sycamore, luxury leather goods made in the U.S.A.! The item I want to highlight here is their Architect Plan Carrier, which is an amazing answer to the problem of carrying awkward full-sized rolled up drawings to the job site or project meeting. Full size drawings can range from 24″ to 36″ when rolled up; and the diameter can vary depending on the complexity of the project. This carrier is a great solution to a common awkward problem. For a limited time, get 20% off purchases only at etsy.


The architect’s muse & musings

Architects love glossy picture books! The bigger, the better but who wants to lug a huge heavy book around? Trust me, I received one as a holiday present. Don’t get me wrong, I love it! But it was not easy to take home! Instead, I have here some great recommendations for books with lots of pretty glossy pictures that is sure to be a sweet treat to the architect’s eyes!

Phaidon, is an excellent publisher of art, architecture, cook, design, graphic, and photography books. They have a shop in New York City, Soho to be exact. One of my favorite places to visit! They have this gorgeous new book on John Pawson: Plain Space (one of my favorite architects and designers); a must have.

John Pawson monologue

Another great publisher of art, architecture, design, and photography books is teNeues. They also have shop in New York City, also in Soho! They have some fun new books that is sure to inspire architects and designers with new books like these: Art Architecture Design New York and Living in Style Paris.


Architects love architecture magazines. It’s one of the ways architects stay abreast of the latest architectural and building technologies and innovative designs as well as relevant industry news about new and completed projects and competitions. I have 3 different recommendations that architects would greatly appreciate a subscription to.

Architect Magazine is an award-winning popular architectural publication that reports on contemporary architecture and design. This is the perfect gift for architecture students as well as recent grads and architects of all ages. It’s a magazine that will keep the architect current with the latest building technologies and innovative designs. There are 3 subscription options for the magazine. For more information about subscribing to Architect Magazine, click here.

El Croquis, an architectural publication based in Spain. Each issue is usually dedicated to a single architect, usually one that has been awarded the Pritzker Prize (1). These magazines are a great resource and offers the architect and architecture student inspiration. There is a choice between two subscriptions; 5 issues or 10 issues. As a subscriber digital editions of the magazines are also available for download. Another great feature of El Croquis is that you can order back issues especially if you know your architect’s favorite architect. For more information about El Croquis, click here. To subscribe or back order a specific issue, click here (subscriptions differ depending on where it will be delivered).

Another great architecture magazine is Detail: Portal for Architecture, a German based publication that is “…devoted to a specific constructional theme and provides a comprehensive treatment of the subject in the various sections of the journal.” It’s a great resource for architects who are detail oriented. A yearly subscription includes 8 issues plus 2 Detail green issues. For more subscription information, click here.

When the architect is inspired, he or she is gonna need something to scribble or sketch it all down. Instead of giving them just another Moleskin sketchbook, pair it up with the Field Sketchbook by White Sycamore! It’s a lovely leather sketchbook protector with a sleeve to hold the pen or pencil for the architect’s convenience. The Padfolio, also from White Sycamore is a great gift for the architect who is constantly in the field making observations, or sitting in meetings taking down minutes. For a limited time, get 20% off purchases only at etsy.

The architect’s uniform

Giving clothes is always tricky, but I think for the architect it could be simpler than you think especially if that architect insists on wearing black only. How simple is that? Black t-shirt, black button down shirt, black tie, black belt, black sweater vest, etc. Black, black, black, blah! Or, you can always settle on this T-shirt.

However, if your architect is a bit more stylish and fashion forward, how about this amazing cowl top from Desira Pesta! It’s hand-made and hand-printed 100% cotton jersey. Pattern is designed by an architect, Rob Daurio. You can buy this fabulous top here. There’s also a scarf that is the same pattern, which you can buy here.


The archiTECH

For the architect or student of architecture who owns an iPhone (at least with the latest iOS4), or an iPod Touch, or an iPad you may consider gifting an app or an audiobook or visual programs. Here are some great ideas that any architect would appreciate!

Do you know an architect who is going for their license? There’s an app for that! Kaplan Architecture Registration Exam. This app is available both on the iPhone and iPad.

Maybe that architect you know is just way too busy to sit down and read a book, or is always behind a computer drafting away. Perhaps an audiobook is the answer to help them get some intellectual and mental stimulation. Here are some titles for the architect who appreciates critical analysis and thinking about architecture.
The Architecture of Happiness by Alain De Botton.
Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger.

Or perhaps, the architect prefers to be visually stimulated and inspired. You may want to consider some of these documentaries any design conscious architect would appreciate. You can either buy the entire season or select specific episodes. These programs are also available on DVD.
E2 Design, Season 2:  “…is an eighteen part documentary-style television series investigating sustainable living and green design from New York City to rural Mexico. It was narrated by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman.”(2)
Big Ideas for a Small Planet: “…s an American documentary series on the Sundance Channel which focuses on environmental innovations such as alternative fuel and green building techniques.”(3)
Rem Koolhaus: A Kind of Architect: “…is an engaging portrait of a visionary man that takes us to the heart of his ideas.”(4)

screen shot from E2 Design

screen shot from E2 Design

The Social architect

Of course, the “Gifts for the Architect 2010” isn’t complete without suggestions of spirits, right? What architect doesn’t enjoy a good drink? There’s nothing like a mixing up an easy gin and tonic with one of my favorite gin, Hendricks. Truth be told, I like the bottle. And if you feel giving just a bottle of gin isn’t enough, you can always pair it up with a couple of nice glass tumblers or martini glasses, or an attractive cocktail shaker.

And you can’t go wrong with gifting a bottle of whisky – how about Ardbeg Supernova?

Here are some additional ideas for the architects who enjoys being social.

  • You may pair a bottle of wine with one of these lovely sommelier corkscrew, the Parrot, from Alessi.
  • Or maybe, the architect prefers to celebrate beer. A case of their favorite beer or a large bottle of handcrafted artisan beer with one of these bottle openers, Diabolix, from Alessi.

The architect’s bonus

Chances will be that architects may not be receiving bonuses at the end of 2010 so why not give them a little something extra to let them know how special they are with any of these gift ideas?

Besides enjoying a good drink at the end of the day, architects love a good morning brew to get them going. Coffee is a favorite morning brew for many architects. The aroma wakes them up and the smooth taste whether served hot or iced with a dash of milk or a sprinkle of sugar jolts them to action! How about a handsome bag of gourmet coffee?

Or how about some fine tea leaves which they can brew up while they’re in the office stressing over a deadline? There’s nothing like a soothing cup of earl grey or mint tea. Tea is aromatic and possesses healing properties. Check out these fine teas from these fine companies.


We all know that architects love to read and look through picture books, and tend to be organized so why not include one of these pageCUES by Gilbert13 with a new glossy picture book? They are available in 3 different themes but the one you’ll want to get for that architect is the set of iconic buildings (yellow).

How about this amusing book “101 Things I Learned in Architecture School” which you may buy at your local bookstore or online bookseller. It’s perfect for the recent graduate or a great reminder for the seasoned professional.

101 things i learned in architecture school

Another great gift addition that architects may enjoy especially if they appreciate fine detail are these kits from Finch & Fouracre. They are architectural model makers and designers based in Glasgow. It comes flat and you carefully fold it to create this adorable tinyment. This thing is about 2.5″ tall!! You can buy this gift here. They also offer bigger cardboard Scottish tenement models for those who do not have nimble fingers.

Or how about these amazing Architectural Model Series from Terada Design Architects? These are incredible! The scale is 1:100! So far, I’ve only seen it sold at MoMA Design store in NYC and they have limited stock online. You can do a search and buy from overseas.

architectural model set in black

architectural model set in black

architectural model set in red


I hope these suggestions are helpful in providing you with some inspiration if not THE answer to your gift shopping quandary. I know it may seem difficult to find the right gift for someone who’s profession lends them to be detailed oriented, a control freak about quality, and highly opinionated but don’t worry. It’s a time for merriment. The gift giving aspect of this merry holiday is a thoughtful gesture and not mandatory. Happy shopping!!

Architects, feel free to leave comments of any gift ideas you may want to share or share what great gifts you’ve received last year.

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Photography credit:

  • photo of Victorinox Swiss Army bag from website.
  • photos of Architect Plan Carrier, Field Sketchbook, and Padfolio courtesy of White Sycamore.
  • images of books published by  teNeues from website.
  • image of Architect Magazine from website.
  • photos of El Croquis magazines courtesy of Abbozzo.
  • images of Detail: Portal of Architecture magazine from website.
  • photo of “Trust me, I’m an Architect” t-shirt courtesy of Signature T-shirts.
  • photo of grey architectural cowl drape top courtesy of Desira Pesta.
  • screen grab from E2 Design website.
  • photo of Hendrick’s Gin from wikipedia.
  • screen grab from Ardbeg Supernova from website.
  • image of Parrot sommelier corkscrew from Alessi website.
  • image of Earl Grey tea leaves from Bellocq website.
  • image of coffee beans by Courtney Francis from stock.xchng
  • photo of pageCUES courtesy of Gilbert13.
  • photo of Tinyment courtesy of Finch & Fouracre.

Gifts for the Architect

Now that we are fast approaching the holiday season, you may be wondering what to give as a gift to that architect you know and like. There are many architects out there; all with different sensibilities, tastes, quirks, and interests.

I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that may help you find the right gift for that friend who’s either an architect, student of architecture, or in the architectural profession. There’s no such thing as the perfect gift with an architect.


For the architect who has wall to wall shelving of books, and has no time to read; or who has an empty coffee table. Here are some recommendations with pretty pictures of contemporary architecture that is sure to inspire.

Tiny Houses by Mimi Zeiger, is a 7″ x 7″ hardcover collection of tiny houses; no bigger than 1,000 square feet!

“With “McMansions” increasingly giving way to “tiny” houses, the desire to downsize and be more ecologically and economically prudent is a concept many are beginning to embrace. Focusing on dwelling spaces all under 1,000 square feet, TINY HOUSES (Rizzoli, April 2009) by Mimi Zeiger aims to challenge readers to take a look at their own homes and consider how much space they actively use.
Ranging from tree houses to floating houses, TINY HOUSES features an international collection of over thirty modular and prefab homes, each one embodying “microgreen living”, defined as the creation of tiny homes where people challenge themselves to live “greener” lives. By using a thoughtful application of green living principles, renewable resources for construction, and clever ingenuity, these homes exemplify sustainable living at its best.”

book description from Rizzoli

For the architect who has joined the “green” bandwagon.

Green Architecture Now! by Philip Jodidio is a soft cover collection of contemporary sustainable architecture.

“The ecological impact of new construction, once a secondary concern, has become a crucial issue. Badly designed buildings guzzle natural resources and pollute their surroundings; in an era of rocketing energy costs and environmental degradation, the need for a sustainable, energy-efficient architecture is paramount. This book features the architects, artists and firms pioneering a new green architecture, and examines the emergent esthetics.”

book description from TASCHEN

For the architect who loves Le Corbusier, here is the biggest book published of the great modernist architect.

Le Corbusier Le Grand published by Phaidon.

“Le Corbusier (1887-1965) was born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland. The self-named Le Corbusier was not only the creator of some of the most important and impressive buildings of the last century–Villa Savoye at Poissy, the Chapel of Notre-Dame-du-Haut at Ronchamp, the capitol complex in Chandigarh, India–he was also an accomplished painter, sculptor, furniture designer, urbanist, and author. His work and social theories continue to be a dominant force in the world of architecture and design, while his elegant bearing, bow tie, and round black eyeglasses are still today a signature look for architects around the world. Le Corbusier Le Grand’s oversized format and luxurious binding reflect the legendary status of this “giant” of twentieth-century architecture and design.
The book includes an insightful introductory essay by France’s most authoritative architectural historian and critic, Jean-Louis Cohen, and incisive chapter introductions by highly regarded Le Corbusier scholar Tim Benton. A separate booklet includes translations of documents, many of which have never been translated into English before.”

For the critical architect whose always got something to say about a building.

Building Up and Tearing Down, and Why Architecture Matters; both by Paul Goldberger, who was recently on the Colbert Report. To see the interview, click here.

“The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Frank Gehry, the CCTV Headquarters by Rem Koolhaas, the Getty Center by Richard Meier, the Times Building by Renzo Piano: Pulitzer Prize–winning critic Paul Goldberger’s tenure at The New Yorker has documented a captivating era in the world of architecture, one in which larger-than-life buildings, urban schemes, historic preservation battles, and personalities have commanded an international stage. Goldberger’s keen observations and sharp wit make him one of the most insightful and passionate architectural voices of our time. In this collection of fifty-seven essays, the critic Tracy Kidder called “America’s foremost interpreter of public architecture” ranges from Havana to Beijing, from Chicago to Las Vegas, dissecting everything from skyscrapers by Norman Foster and museums by Tadao Ando to airports, monuments, suburban shopping malls, and white-brick apartment houses. This is a comprehensive account of the best—and the worst—of the “age of architecture.””

book description of “Building Up and Tearing Down” from Random House Inc.

Based on decades of looking at buildings and thinking about how we experience them, the distinguished critic raises our awareness of fundamental things like proportion, scale, space, texture, materials, shapes, light, and memory. Upon completing this remarkable architectural journey, readers will enjoy a wonderfully rewarding new way of seeing and experiencing every aspect of the built world.”

book description of “Why Architecture Matters” from Yale University Press


Architects love to watch and learn things so why not get them a documentary of a famous architect?

The PBS documentary of Frank Lloyd Wright by Ken Burns and we all know Mr. Burns produces highly acclaimed documentaries. To learn more about the documentary, click here.

A great documentary on the Spanish architect Antonio Guadí by Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara.

Synopsis from Criterion Films,
“Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí (1852–1926) designed some of the world’s most astonishing buildings, interiors, and parks; Japanese director Hiroshi Teshigahara constructed some of the most aesthetically audacious films ever made. Here their artistry melds in a unique, enthralling cinematic experience. Less a documentary than a visual poem, Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudí takes viewers on a tour of Gaudí’s truly spectacular architecture, including his massive, still-unfinished masterpiece, the Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. With camera work as bold and sensual as the curves of his subject’s organic structures, Teshigahara immortalizes Gaudí on film.”

For the architect who likes to be entertained, here are some movie suggestions.

The International starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. One of the customer reviews for this movie commented that the movie is stylish and featured great architecture.

The Fountainhead (the movie) starring Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal. The screenplay was adapted and written by the original author, Ayn Rand.


For the architect who likes to stay abreast of the latest trends in architecture, design, construction, and technology; magazines are a way to go and will be greatly appreciated. Just as there are a variety of specialist architects in the field, there is a magazine that fits their interest equally. Here is a list of architecture magazine compiled on Wikipedia that is sure to please any architect happy.


The Architect is never without his/her own set of tools that distinguishes them from another architect. It’s a competitive world out there and the Architect is always looking for ways to stand out from the rest just as they do with their designs. Here is a list of tools you may want to consider to stuff the stocking of the Architect.

The Architect always needs something to draw, write, and scribble with so why not get him or her a nice mechanical pencil like the Pentel Sharp Kerry, which is available in many colors.

Another option for a mechanical pencil is the LAMY scribble; Model 185(3,15).

For sketching, it has a thick 3.15 mm lead and a removable clip.
Mechanical pencil with distinctive ergonomic form. Matt black plastic, fittings in a palladium finish.
Clutch mechanism with 3.15 (LAMY M 43) sketching lead.
Designer: Hannes Wettstein

– description from LAMY scribble

You can’t give the Architect just a mechanical pencil; pair it up with a sketchbook. I saw this while I was in Barnes & Noble. These books are by ecosystem. The colors caught my eye and then I noticed that there are different books for different types of people. There is one for the artist, the writer, the organizer, and the Architect. And the Architect’s sketchbook is bound with graph paper? When I saw that, I was like, “Really?” I don’t know any architect who uses graph paper sketch books.

e•co sys•tem ar•chi•tect [ek-oh sis-tem ahr-ki-tekt]

An environmentally aware person who creates strength and order with lines.

Because you are structured, expressive, and ordered, each ecosystem architect item features grid paper so you can continue as an environmentally aware person who creates strength and order with lines. The 100% post-consumer recycled paper features a perfect grid for your planning.

I personally prefer sketchbooks by Moleskin. They come in a variety of sizes and covers. I like the ones that come three in a pack; perfect for traveling and to quickly jot down notes. Moleskin is currently offering a limited edition sketchbook for the Architect called La Mano Dell’Architetto.

“The Hand of the Architect (La Mano Dell’Architetto) is a limited edition Moleskine book filled with drawings from 110 internationally renowned architects. The compilation is a tribute to Piero Portaluppi, who in 1932 designed Villa Necchi Campiglio, located in the heart of Milan. The participating architects donated a total of 378 signed sketches. These were then exhibited in Milan and auctioned to raise funds for the maintenance of Villa Necchi Campiglio, which is now open to the public.

Get a glimpse into the sketchbooks of visionaries like Michael Graves, Zaha Hadid, Piero Lissoni, Kengo Kumo, Mario Botta, Tadao Ando, and many more. From whimsical to philosophical, simple sketches to elaborate renderings, the images in this book are a source of inspiration that will make you think, smile, and create.

Then, capture your own ideas with the companion special edition blank journal – this set includes the hardcover 272 page Moleskine Folio filled with architectural sketches, and an A4 Cahier with 120 blank pages for you to fill up!”

-description from Moleskin


We all know that architecture is a high stress profession, and as a result, many architects like to unwind with a drink , or two, or three, or more. Why not treat them to a nice bottle of gin like DH Krahn gin.

If drinking isn’t a good idea for that architect you know (because there are lots out there who are alcoholics), how about a session with a therapist to help the architect you know work out their professional stresses, or career goals, or addictions (i.e. alcohol). Why not try an outdoor counseling sessions in Manhattan with Clay Cockrell; taking therapy off the couch? He’s been featured on Good Morning America, The Wall Street Journal, and AM New York; to name a few. For more information click here.

And how about for those architects who are just anal retentive? They need to loosen up and relax and not take work so seriously. Why not get them a gift certificate to a spa for a relaxing massage? Great Jones Spa is a great place to retreat and relax. I highly recommend the 90 minute massages; it will be greatly appreciated. Not only that will the architect enjoy a wonderful massage but they will also have access to the water lounge, which includes river rock sauna, chakra-light steam, thermal hot tub, and cold plunge.

For the young person who aspires to be a great architect, get him/her started on their first Lego Architecture products like building Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water.

Lego offers other products in their Architect series as well as their Landmark series.  Visit your local toy store or go to to see what other incredible products are available for the young architect.

Happy Shopping!

An interview with Mitchell Joachim

Here is an interesting clip from the Colbert Report; an interview with Mitchell Joachim, founder of Archinode Studio.  Stephen discusses with Mitchell about ecological design and his ideas of the future of architecture and transportation.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

posted with vodpod

ADA is not sexy… (part 1)

I recently found out that NYC will become an International Building Code (IBC) jurisdiction; adopting an enhanced version of the 2003 IBC.  The new NYC Construction Codes took effect July 1, 2008.  The new NYC Construction Codes now includes guidelines for Accessibility, which it didn’t have before.  So basically, all new construction must accommodate handicap accessibility.

As I understand it, single residences are not mandated to meet accessibility requirements.  However, if the project is for a multiple family residence, the residences must meet ADA requirements.

I am managing a project for a new residence that is being constructed over an existing building.  It’s an interesting project, and very complicated.  I can’t go into great details but the residence is for a single family.  The residence has a huge square footage for a single family, and should the client decide he wants to move his family elsewhere, very few people would be able to afford to buy it as a whole.  So as a contingency, the client would sell each floor as single and double residential units; depending on the floor.

The single family residence was not designed with accessibility in mind.  There are varying floor height changes within some of the floor plans to accommodate the client’s request for double and mezzanine heights.  As a result, there would be a maximum of 3 steps to get from one area to the other on the same floor.  This was fine and acceptable to the client as this will be his home.  However, in the event that he should sell it, he would not be able to do so given the varying level changes on some of the floors.

The only elements that we (the architect) tried to maintain was a consistent stair run within the elevator and emergency exit stair core.

I was asked by my boss to review the floor plans and report which areas had issues and what can be done to either comply or adapt for future accessibility.

The client also reviewed the plans and apparently forgot that he had asked for certain rooms and areas to maintain specific maximum ceiling heights which affected the floors above and below as well as the mezzanines.

In order to adapt the floors for ADA accessibility, the client would have to put in ramps.  The ratio for a ramp is 1:12; which means for every 1″ in height difference equals 12″ of ramp length to meet that height.  For instance, one of the height difference is 24″ from level “A” to level “B”.  That means the ramp would be 24′-0″ in length; there was no room for a 24′ foot long ramp.  

The client wasn’t happy about that and decides that varying heights needed to be eliminated and even out as much as possible.  He could live with putting in an 8′-0″ ramp if it comes down to that but ideally, he’d like to level out the floor.  

While he was describing to me how and where we can adjust floor and ceiling heights, I was thinking that this is a lot of work to do.  It’s basically a redesign, and my boss would not be pleased at all about diving into this when we were supposed to be working towards 100% CD’s.

So, I made a suggestion of putting in a wheelchair lift that was collapsible.  He was not keen on that.  He thought they were unattractive and installing them in these would be multi-million residences would not sell.  He added that he’s never seen an installation of one of those wheelchair lifts that either concealed their unattractiveness enough, and thus it was not an option to explore.

At that moment, I just thought, “ADA is just not sexy.  Good-bye.”  

And it’s true, ADA is very institutional looking – cold, and uninviting.  In fact, if one of the purposes of having the American Disabilities Act is to provide equal opportunities and treatment to those who are physically challenged, then why can’t accessibility be attractive and sexy, too?

For more information on NYC Building Code on Accessibility, click here.
To learn more about the American Disabilities Act, click here.